Cape Porpoise

August 2021

Saturday early morning the sun rises over the harbor at Cape Porpoise. A spit of land jutting out from Maine’s northern coast; a small lighthouse breaks the long ocean horizon line. The tide is out, and sea gulls drop down for the exposed crabs. Lobster boats in the harbor are keeled over in the ankle- deep water. The sun quickly burns off the morning mist. I watch as a bent old warrior of the lobster fishing army slowly exits his truck. He straightens his back and looks out over the harbor. Is he revisiting the days past when he too would be readying his lobster traps? Unsteady on his feet, he grips the handrail as he climbs the steps up the dock, careful not to trip on the unevenly worn boards that have weathered years of heavy footfall from fishermen past. He waves to a fellow Mainer carrying a thick round of rope over his shoulder who nods back wordlessly. Like a tip of the hat, it suffices. Another young man readies his small craft for striper fishing. His rods sit gathered in a bundle on the wharf as he organizes trolling apparatus in anticipation of the coming tide. The water is still not high enough for his outboard motor to rest securely.

Out of the morning mist comes a woman in a long raincoat, her face framed by a green silk scarf that covers her hair, obscuring her identity. Missing are Jackie-like sunglasses. She carefully navigates the steep rock outcropping, the lighthouse in the distance, making her way to the highest point. She gazes out toward the ocean waters as if waiting for a boat to appear in the calm sea. But the boat doesn’t show and with a downcast chin she descends from the rocks. She steps briskly over a fallen wooden post and then hunches down to avoid the wide branches of a massive pine. She is gone in minutes. When I leave, I pass the broken fence and the wide pine and see a graceful wood-shingled house in the distance with a Maine flag flapping from the front porch. Maybe hers? Cape Porpoise has its mysteries.

Ferries, Diners and General Dynamics

July 2021

It is July and my monthly trip to camp in Maine unfolds. This time Patti and I decided to break up the long drive north at the halfway point with a three week stay in Kennebunk, home of the summer residence of President Bush. I thought we should alert the Bush family that we were coming but given that I have never met them Patti wisely talked me out of it. Maybe we’ll bump into them. The gossip about the Hamptons being overrun by post-covid traffic proves true. The trip from home in East Hampton to the cross-sound ferry on the North Fork at Orient Point usually takes less than an hour. The lines were so backed up for the ferry at Shelter Island it added an extra hour to the trip. By the time we got to Orient Point, we were the last car onto the stern of an old, rumbling, rusted behemoth aptly named “New London,” also our destination port in Connecticut.

The New London was packed with vacationers, so we made our way to the upper deck to escape the unmasked crowds. We found a vacant bench and took in the water views, serene but for the noisy stream of dogs and youngsters running the around the perimeter of the deck and up and down the stairs. The brisk winds kept me from opening the New York Times, as did the heaving of the ship in rough waters. At least there was no traffic. As we moved closer to shore, we could see the shipyards of General Dynamics with submarines in the process of completion. Pretty cool how they manufacture a submarine. They start above water then submerge the hull while they work the interiors. As the ferry pulled into port, we navigated the crowds back down to our car, finally making our way off the New London ship, into the New London traffic. The busy roads were a clear indication that people are traveling post-covid. Patti said perhaps next year they will drive to Europe. She is so observant. So far, it was a four- hour trip that should have taken less than three hours. Oh well–its vacation not work I guess.

Now I had lunch to look forward to which for me is as important as getting to the rental house in Kennebunk. But then things took an unexpected turn. On Rte 490 near Worcester, Mass., we heard the sudden and unpleasant sound of metal dragging beneath the car. Could it have something to do with my backing up the car this morning, turning around in the driveway and feeling a bump? Whatever it was we had to pull over. I spied an exit with a sign for a body shop and headed for it. We parked and I went in nonchalantly, pretending I needed a restroom— which I desperately did. A young man pointed toward a door in the back among the shelves of tools and car parts. “By the way,” I asked, “do you have a minute to look at my car? We ran over something in the road, and it damaged something underneath. I’m concerned it may cause an accident.” He agreed to look at it, but we would have to wait–and so would lunch. Seems something rather large got caught under the tail pipe and tore it clean off. Well, an hour and a half and $100 dollars later–and a piece of the bumper in my hands–the car was repaired and, most importantly, we had directions to a diner up the road.

The best part of the trip so far was beginning. The diner was a throwback from the 1950s. Not a replica but the real thing. Six wooden booths and a dozen vinyl covered stools at a counter. Behind the counter was a small grill used for everything from breakfast through dinner. It was the kind of place I recall from my youth in upstate New York and during the 1960s in the Hamptons. All are gone now, replaced by either fast food or fancy gourmet restaurants. Whatever happened to the great American diner? The crowd in this one was diverse and lively. The woman behind the counter represented the third generation of the same family of owners. Patti’s hamburger and my omelet were delicious and lunch for two was an exorbitant $25. Before leaving I took some photos around the place and the owner didn’t seem to mind. We left Worcester satisfied. Patti was now talking to me after I damaged her car and my stomach was full. Oh – and I can’t forget to mention the French fries. They were the old-fashioned kind-hot and not greasy. These days what you usually get is oily and room temperature. Anyway, the rest of the ride was uneventful and by the time we got to our house on the shore of Kennebunk, I was ready for a nap. As we unpacked, I noticed the tide was out. I took a deep breath of sea air, and it was grand.

Fishing the Morning Lonely

July 2021

I have only recently returned from camp after spending Father’s Day week there, with my eldest daughter Kara and her husband Peter. The weather at camp was in and out every day – partly cloudy in the morning and a bit of afternoon rain. Weather notwithstanding, there were plenty of fish—trout and bass. Sharing a 20-foot grand canoe with one of your kids is a great opportunity for communication— neither of you have anywhere to run. But those few moments in time when father and daughter talk to each other looking directly into each other’s eyes are worth all the effort. This floating trip was a first for us both down the Mattawamkeag River from Danforth to the Bridge at Drew Plantation. Kara and I had done a similar float trip in Montana when she was a teenager. Casting to the shore and that instant take on top of the water is very thrilling. Keeping my balance is a bit of a challenge but I did not fall in this time. Greg, our fishing guide, paddled most of the way with a bit of help from the 8 HP motor to get us home for dinner. The day ended with a few casts off the dock and to my surprise I hooked a fat bass right off the rocks no more than 20 feet from camp. The flight home from Bangor was calm and uneventful–the cell turned off and the NY Times in hand catching up on news after a week of
withdrawal. The weather on my return was cool and unceremoniously dismal for July 4 . I thought of making a fire in the library. I went down to the basement and sought out the wood pile that had lain unused during covid, hidden in the corner behind cartons of stored clothes. The warmth from the fire was a charm and reminded me of so many evenings at camp, ensconced with a good book in front of the hearth. I looked among the shelves in the library for something to read. On the shelf to my right was a collection of books on fishing that I had accumulated since the early 1970s. Scanning the titles I came to a small book of poems, Fishing the Morning Lonely by George Mendoza. I glanced through it and fell upon the title poem, which so beautifully captures the serene sense of perspective one gains when immersed in nature.

“Fishing the morning lonely / I’m looking up at the sky / telling myself / why I’m who and how do you do / black and yellow waxwing / why can’t I fly like you…

Fishing the morning lonely / is dreaming in the sky / and looking at your face in a milkweed ball and packing up all your possessions / in the petals of a flower / Don’t look for me
for I’m clear through / invisible / when I’m on the river /fishing the morning lonely”

I often fish the morning lonely at camp, in the very early hours of the day. Before anyone at camp arises, I head out to the dock and cast off among the rocks where the bass rest. Always a short cast with a yellow hopper. A ratty old fly tied by a fisherman of old, handed down to me by his grandkids when they cleaned out the garage for a yard sale. There are plenty of these yard sales in my town now now that many of the old families are selling off to New Yorkers who want a piece of the Hamptons. Grandpa’s old grease-covered fly box filled with handmade rusty lures and some flies—his grandkids remembered that I fish and they dropped the box off at my office. What an amazing gift. I use them all the time. In fact, I am trying to duplicate some of them with a beginner’s fly-tying kit from Orvis. I will fish the morning lonely for as long as I can fix my early morning coffee and walk unassisted down to the dock for the first cast of the day.

There Was Good News and Bad News

July 2021

I returned to camp for a full week. I try to come up North for a week every month through September. The flight from JFK was unremarkable–on time and a smooth hour ride on a large Delta aircraft. Driving down camp road is always a bit exciting and my heart does a brief skip or two upon reaching 239 Boulder Road. I jump out of the car to run down to the dock to check out the lake and my fleet. This year I added an East Grand 20-foot canoe that is a bit more stable than my old aluminum Grumman that capsized last year with me in it. Next to it should have been the new-old boat that was an 80th birthday present from Lori and Ted last summer. But it didn’t make it through the season this year, which brings me to the bad news.

A couple of weeks ago, after I had already returned to Florida from my trip in May with my grandson, Greg was off fiddleheading somewhere when a tornado-like storm blew in and tore my new- old fishing boat off its mooring and rammed it into the dock and rocks below it. The boat was shattered, the engine destroyed beyond repair. Losing the boat was a terrible blow to all of us, especially Greg, as he is the caretaker of the property and was not on site to get the boat out of the water. He recounted the day’s events to me as they unfolded on that Sunday morning. The temperature suddenly dropped some 20 degrees. Greg and his friend Jimmy were off in the backwoods to get in the last of the season grab on fiddlehead fern, a delicacy of the north country. The guys had set out before daybreak while Katie, Greg’s partner, and Darcy, his daughter, were still asleep in their cabin. There had been no forecast of a storm. It descended suddenly from the northeast, which means Canada and even further north. Waves were reportedly seven feet over the dock. The picnic table was submerged. Greg grew up on East Grand Lake and said he hadn’t seen a storm like that since he was a kid and the waves reached his grandparents cabin, which is still there and next door to mine.

Well, it was a grand slam storm as they say up here. And as they say down in East Hampton, it wasn’t arms and legs. Thankfully no one was hurt, and the water never made it to my cabin. Anyway, I alluded to the good news at the beginning of this column. Sitting in my front yard like a proper Mainer is a new new-old fishing boat all in red with white vinyl seats and a 30 HP vintage Johnson motor. Seems Darcy found it in New Hampshire on some website. Darcy the trooper went for a ride in her F150 and came back trailering my new new-old boat. Today the threatened rain never materialized, and Greg is about to put the new boat in the water. My daughter Kara, her husband Peter and I will go out fishing in Dark Cove where Greg is reporting that the bass are plenty and there are a few trout left. I am eternally hopeful and will report back next week.

On My Way

June 2021

I decide to spend the weekend in New York City, on my way back to my permanent home Back East, in East Hampton. Before going out to Long Island, I want to take in the air of a city that has just begun to awaken post pandemic.

The ride in from Westchester Airport is long and tedious with heavy traffic going toward Manhattan and across the George Washington Bridge. On a Thursday afternoon traffic swells with commercial trucks and vacationers getting a jump start on a long weekend at the beach. It is an unseasonably hot and stifling day for early June. What a difference from when I was last here, during the darker days of covid, when Manhattan resembled a high-rise ghost town. Things are bustling again. Passing through the Bronx, I see Yankee Stadium and my level of anticipation escalates automatically. It is good to be back in New York. Onto the Major Deegan and the Second Avenue Bridge at 130th Street. The bodegas are thriving; the streets are alive with people—workers, school kids on their way home. South on 2nd Avenue and the neighborhood changes. From Spanish markets to posh boutiques. I see far fewer vacant storefronts. Restaurants have spilled out onto the sidewalks everywhere, with lively tables full of customers, causing even more car congestion on the streets. Reaching our home on 68th Street, the doormen are at the ready. Lots of hugs and “good to see you” and “welcome back.” All nice and homey until we go for the elevators. They are out of service as is seems the recent increase in demand has shortened their lifespans a bit. Or maybe they missed a few rounds of maintenance during lockdown. Undaunted we take the service elevator up to the 31st floor, with our luggage and packages from the front desk. Later, a quiet dinner at Da Umberto, our favorite local Italian restaurant, is the perfect balm after a long day of travel. In Florida, we usually dine outdoors but this time we are inside. The waiter is courteous and welcoming, and we are thrilled to be there, happy that the place survived the long restaurant shutdown period. Afterward, a stroll back to the apartment. The air is cooler and I notice the streets are back to their uneven cleanliness. We don’t see any homeless folks and hope it means the shelters a safely up and running now. Last year the sidewalks were filled with homeless men and women, staying out in the open air where presumably it was safer. The commercial rental market is still dismal and despite the uptick there are still more stores closed than open. Certain areas have recovered more robustly than others. Second Avenue closed for years while the new subway line was installed and now it is now open for business. Lexington Avenue is missing many of the mom-and-pop shops that dotted the streetscape—the shoe repair, the dry cleaner, the small dress shops, and the like. I see a lot of young people everywhere and they will be the force that really turns the economy around, back in their apartments and waiting to return to their offices. Theater will reopen in the fall. Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall. Eventually people will return from their quarantine escapes and summer homes to enjoy the city again. They say it is the greatest city in the world. The pandemic will be a dark chapter in its history, but the pages have already turned, and the glorious story of New York continues.

Salmon Season

June 2021

The intriguing thing about fishing for landlocked salmon in Maine as opposed to trawling from a canoe or river fishing is that it is the closest one gets to Western-style trout fly-fishing. Though we are on a closed freshwater stream – a dam farther downstream forms East Grand Lake—we use the same lightweight tackle and similar small lures. I am no expert but from my experience in Maine, this May was the best trout-like fishing for salmon I have had since building my Maine camp retreat.

Our first time out, the guide, Mark, took me and Ted–all of us in waders– down to Forest City, to a stream that separates the U.S. from Canada. Homeland Security monitors a small, “international” bridge that links the two countries, with a single guard booth on either side. It is not a heavily trafficked port of entry or departure. Fewer than seven cars a day use the crossing. When we showed up it must have been a welcome interruption for the security guard. She came out of her enclosure to inquire of our business near the bridge. We were wearing waders and carrying fishing rods, so it may have been obvious, but her expression stayed firm until a bit of flirting from Mark convinced her our intentions were pure fishing and nothing else. Mind you I said fishing, not catching.

Ted decided to hang back and take photos and make a business call on shore while Mark and I carefully descended the steep bank to enter the stream. Pieces of the foundation of the old tannery that once stood there were evident through the clear, swiftly running water. With the sun over my shoulder, I was ready for anything. A few clouds for cover for the fish were perfect. Mark tied a small, wet fly to my line and instructed me to cast upstream; it would allow a light drift with the current. After a few unsuccessful casts I moved to my right to take advantage of a wider drift. Mark was behind me watching the bobbing fly like a hawk. “Strike!” he shouted into my ear. Clueless me. I never saw the salmon take my fly. Blame it on the sun’s glare. My hand—eye coordination kicked in once I recovered from the ringing eardrum. I lifted the rod and felt the tug. It was a fish, though I could not see it. It dove for the deepest part of the pool area, some 10 to 12 feet down. Mark cautioned me. “Go easy and give it line when it pulls,” he said. I felt like Mark was sitting on my shoulder. I played the fish like I have always done. Tight line and rod high but not too high and not too tight. Figure that one out. Anyway, I maneuvered the line and brought the fish to within a couple of feet from where I stood. The fish pulled hard, and I let out the line to give him the play he wanted. Spooked after eyeing us from the water the fish sprang forward with a jolt of adrenaline, and I feared it was game over. I was determined not to lose him. Unlike the dainty brook trout I had caught earlier that day this was a grand fish and I wanted a picture of it to show my gal Patti. I was intent on proving to her that the long trip from Florida to Maine was worth it. Mark was now whispering in my ear. “This fish is huge. Give him line. Don’t pull back. Don’t lose him!” He was as desperate as I was to hang on to it. At any moment I expected him to dive into the water to catch it with his bare hands. “The rocks!” he yelled. The salmon was pulling me toward some huge boulders upstream. Mark saw the jeopardy before I did. “It will break off once it gets behind that boulder!” All this was playing out in seconds. I was not comfortably situated in the stern seat of the Pilar leisurely bringing in a marlin. “C’mon,” I muttered to the fish. “Enough already. Let’s finish this. I’ll take your picture and release you back to the wild to rejoin all your friends.” It was not to be. Maybe he heard me though because he gave me one terrific jump out of the water. He wanted me to see his size and color. My god, he was a beauty—too beautiful to be caught. For a split second the sun bounced off his silvery spots. He must have been a foot and a half long – maybe three or four pounds in weight. For a moment I relaxed my grip on the fly rod to take in this stunning example of creation. It was all he needed to break off the line with the fly still in his mouth. I was fine. I was fortunate to see him out of the water. I did not need a photo–the image would stay with me. I had Mark and Ted as witnesses to verify that I had that amazing specimen on my line. The exhilarating feeling of catching a landlocked salmon was fulfilled. I was content. Mark was not. He wanted to bring a trophy salmon to the net. Not today. As we made our way out of the water, we heard clapping from up above on the bridge. The Homeland Security officer had emerged from the guard station and watched the whole episode from her overhead position. “That was an American salmon!” she said cheerily from her perch.

Day Two: Back at Camp

June 2021

Noon comes surprisingly fast, even when you are up at 5:30am. Ross, Billy and I returned from our early morning trout fishing expedition in Greenwood Cove feeling invigorated but famished. Thankfully Ted, my old friend and next-door neighbor, whipped up a hearty pancake lunch, which we devoured outside at the picnic table. After that there was no stopping us from an afternoon adventure.

Greg, an experienced local fishing guide, had been talking about a backwoods trout pond that he had discovered off River Road. Our interest was stoked, and everyone was eager to go; the only hesitancy was in knowing that we would be irresistible bait for the backwoods black flies. May is a terrible time for flies in Maine and spray with deet just isn’t enough. On the water they are not as bothersome, but in the woods, we had to wear bandanas saturated with bug spray to keep them off our faces. Arms and legs were food enough for these little pests. No point in dwelling on it. I pulled on my waders, and we all jumped into Greg’s truck in search of the mythical trout pond. I wade for a longer cast of my 5-weight rod. The kids were to fish with Ted from shore.

No sooner did we get going when the laments from the back seat commenced. “How much longer?” asked Billy. “It’s hot – are we almost there?” “Soon, soon,” Greg said, glancing at me with a bit of a wink. The turn off from River Road was an unmarked logging trail. After a mile or so through the brush and mud, Greg suddenly stopped the truck in a somewhat dramatic fashion and after a loud exhale of breath turned to Ted. “Where are we Ted? I don’t remember this. How did we get on the wrong track here?” If this was true, the afternoon would be lost. Billy groaned. “Aw c’mon,” Ted said, getting out of the truck. Greg got out and I wasn’t sure where things were going. Then they both grinned and started gathering their gear like nothing was wrong. That’s dry old Maine humor for you. Ted and Greg grew up together in Maine during summer vacations. Greg is a native and Ted’s father would bring the family north every year. Of course, Greg knew where we were and had pulled over near an obscure trail only he could see. We took a few moments to further shower ourselves with deet before we made our way through the buzzing thicket to the pond. Billy was the first one into the woods. “Wait up!” his dad, Ross, called out to him. Eventually Greg led the way and we clambered and climbed over brush and fallen logs. There were considerable moose droppings and Billy expressed some concern that we might fall victim to an attack. “Not a chance,” said Greg. “Moose only come out during hunting season.” More Maine humor–and a bit of wishful thinking.

The ground became very muddy as we drew closer to the pond. We passed through dense patches of towering young trees that surrounded the pond, edging right into the pond shallows. They were the last obstacle. The gangly boughs and trunks bent easily enough, and Ted took Ross and Billy around to an open area where they could cast from shore. I waded into the pond with Greg still pushing aside these amphibious trees, toward an area open enough to cast. No waders for Greg of course. He wore his usual sneakers and wranglers to fish, in or out of the water–and always with the extra can of beer in his permanently stretched out back pocket. Before I knew it, I was in chest high water without a wading stick—not too smart. I held on to Greg for balance, casting as I waded. We were fishing with dry flies. After a few back casts I was able to get some distance into the middle of the pond. “Strike!” Greg shouted. I could see the swirl in the water where my fly had landed. I recast quickly to the same spot and a fish hit my fly. I lifted my rod but could not set the hook. Fish toying with me is a familiar experience. I need to catch something before my reflexes are secure enough to finish the job. A catch- 22—pun intended–but it seems the connection between hand and eye are blessed after the first hook up. At least in my case. It took a few more casts before I brought a trout into the net. Brook trout are splendidly colored, and I marvel at nature’s way of camouflaging the fish with their iridescent scales. These native fish make the sport of fishing so captivating. Standing in fresh water, when the only sound is the wind and an occasional bird cry, or a can of beer being opened—that’s okay too. I settle in and continue to cast. Heavenly.

Maine At Last

May 2021

I have been talking about returning to camp all winter and finally, third week of May, I arrived.

The trip north was long and boring. West Palm to Charlotte—where I almost missed my connecting flight–and then into Portland, where my buddy Ted picked me up and we drove another 3 1⁄2 hours to Danforth. On arrival at camp, Katie was waiting with dinner prepared. Hors d’oeuvres were cheese and crackers with a few red grapes – a delight. Ross, my son-in-law, and Billy, my ten-year-old grandson, had driven up from New York and were anxious to know when dinner would be served—and when we were going fishing in the morning. Greg, Katy’s partner, had a full beard—unlike the neatly trimmed beards I’m used to seeing in Palm Beach—and he was wearing Katie’s eyeglasses, which he said worked better for tying flies. Their dog was missing from its resting place in front of the stone fireplace. Sadly, he had passed away over the winter. Greg got misty talking about it. Even loggers shed tears. Dinner was from the lake and land—freshly caught salmon with a side of fiddlehead fern. Dessert was of course home- baked strawberry pie from Renee’s. Dinner and to bed were the goals after the long trip.

Sunrise woke me at 5:30am and I was eager to get on the water. After a few office catch-up calls, I headed down to the dock to take everyone out on my new-old boat for a spin around the lake. Greg pushed the starter and Whoa! –we were off. The new 15 horsepower motor cut through the waves, toward the rising sun. It was exhilarating and Billy was grinning from ear to ear. “When do we fish, Grandpa?” he asked. I turned to Greg, and he was prepared. We dropped anchor at the north end of Greenwood Cove. Greg fitted a live worm onto Billy’s spinning rod and handed the rod to Billy. After that it was “catching” not “fishing.” Good size brook trout were plentiful, with an occasional bass. The water temperature was just right for them. We looked for salmon, but the trout were the fish of the morning. Billy was showing off to his father who was visiting for the first time. It was satisfying to see father and son enjoying my camp. That was never my experience growing up. I know Ted’s father loved his camp and I learned on this trip that Ted’s dad built his camp, a next-door neighbor to my camp, only a few years before mine was built. I am fortunate to have the experience of witnessing my family enjoy the wilderness in a place that means so much to me. These will be lasting memories for Billy and, I believe for his dad, Ross. We had only been at camp for half a day and there was still so much more to do!


May 2021

For a while now I have been thinking of writing a column about brothers. Last month was my late brother Martin’s birthday. Around that time, I had lunch with a small group of friends– Jerry, an attorney, Mel, also an attorney, and Peter, a Wall Street banker. As it happens, each of them, like me, have older brothers. We spoke at length about our siblings, both living and passed, and their impact on our lives. It was a compelling discussion, and my conversation has continued with each of these friends over the last several weeks. My brother died tragically some 25 years ago, but his influence, especially throughout my young adulthood, shaped me profoundly.

Brothers play an important part in growing up and into manhood, especially an older brother, as he is someone to look up to. If he is a success, he can be a role model. On the other hand, depending on the relationship, that same success can be a detriment to the younger one. Attempting and failing to match or surpass the accomplishments of an older sibling can be heartbreaking and humiliating. My own brother was more of a father figure. Some seven years older than me, we spent more time together as adults than as childhood companions. He was off to college even before finishing his senior year of high school to avoid the Korean War draft. We reconnected some ten years later when we worked briefly together as lawyers in New York. After that we were both off to our own destinies –he to London with a new wife and child and I to East Hampton to begin my own career with a young family in tow.

Recently I googled my brother’s name to see what the internet might have on Martin Ackerman. The search results were copious, from accounts in the New York Times, to Time Magazine and the front page, right-hand column of the Wall Street Journal. Marty was the president of Curtis Publishing Company, which owned the Saturday Evening Post and other noteworthy publications of the era. The closing of the Saturday Evening Post stirred the pot among the Curtis family members, and they attacked my brother viciously. He was accused of unlawful business practices and faced early retirement at age 37. It would be another ten years before Marty and I reconnected, upon his return from his London retirement.

My friends all reflect on their older brothers with varying views though most had close relationships with them from childhood, and each lived up to or surpassed his brother’s career achievements. Though Marty was largely absent during our early years, he was there when I most needed him. He wrote a letter to Rutgers advocating for my admission to undergraduate school and later when I was accepted, drove me to New Brunswick, New Jersey to enroll me in college. He went with me to open my first checking account and took me shopping for grey flannel slacks and a blue sport coat (which I never wore in college). He supported my decision to move 100 miles from New York City to start a career in East Hampton. The only advice I didn’t take from him was when I announced I was marrying my high school sweetheart at age 22. He said I was too young. He was wrong. I was happily married for 55 years. Sometimes I refer to my long-gone older brother as my “Big” brother because he was “Mr. Big” to me growing up. Now in hindsight I see him as a best friend. I miss our early Sunday morning catch up calls.


May 2021

It is that time of year when kids start thinking about summer camp and all the pent-up excitement around it just builds until the day they can finally wave goodbye to their parents through the bus window. I remember the feeling. I was nine years old when I first went to Camp Seneca on Lake Seneca in upstate New York. The year was 1949.

I had never been away from home. My older brother, with whom I shared a room, was much older and I saw very little of him during his high-school years. My mother cared for my father and my father cared for his work. I don’t recall what first motivated me to leave home for the first time other than a taste for adventure and just wanting a change. The truth is I was bored, so I asked and was granted parole for two weeks in the summer.

The pick-up point for the camp bus ride was the Youth Center in downtown Rochester. It was across from the firehouse, which provided a place of interest to hang out while we, a bunch of misfits, awaited the arrival of our chariot to freedom, out of the city and into the wilderness. It was exciting.

Our ride was a discarded, broken-down school bus clearly no longer in service to the city’s Department of Education. The driver, unshaven with hair sprouting out of his nose and ears, greeted us all with a bloodshot glare as we entered the bus. A cigarette dangled from his lips. I saw a beer can on the dashboard in plain view. Things were different back in those days. Shortly after departing the Center, the driver pulled over to the side of the road. Our chattering stopped—what was going on? He turned around to address the busload of baffled kids, “You got five bucks between yous to pay for the tolls or you wanna spend five hours on the back roads?” After we got over the shock of what he had just said, we concluded amongst ourselves that it was in our best interest to go along with his “suggestion.” We had all been given a few dollars mostly in change from our parents before we boarded the bus and tossed in what we had to stay on the Thruway, which would get us there in a couple of hours. We were anxious to see the camp and have lunch, as promised by the counselors on board.

Upon arrival at camp there was no order. The counsellors tried to get us to sort out our duffels and suitcases, but we would have nothing to do with it. We all stampeded straight to the dining pavilion. We were famished. But before we could dig in a whistle was blown and some guy stood up on the table and shouted at us to “Shut up!” He proceeded to describe in as simple terms as possible the rules of the camp. “No boys in the girl’s camp! No girls in the boy’s camp! No one out of their tent after curfew except for bathroom! No swimming without passing test!” Then all the counselors were introduced. There were some very good-looking female counselors, and I was immediately hooked on the idea of being a counselor as soon as I was old enough. We were finally given permission to dig in and meal did not disappoint: Spaghetti and meatballs, chocolate cake and “bug juice.” I saw our bus driver outside, hardly eager to get back on the road with the return group of campers, sneaking off into the woods with another can of beer.

It has been 72 years since that first summer at camp, but I remember the feeling of excitement vividly. I went to Camp Seneca every summer for several years after that and now all these years later I still look forward with similar anticipation to the time I spend in the Maine woods at my fishing camp.